Top Republicans on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introduced the E-BRIDGE Act, which seeks to make it easier for Economic Development Administration grant money to go to broadband buildout. Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) and Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management Subcommittee Ranking Member John Katko (R-NY) sponsored The Eliminating Barriers to Rural Internet Development Grant Eligibility (E-BRIDGE) Act (H.R. 6491).
The measure removes hurdles for broadband projects under EDA grants (including difficult last-mile efforts that often delay rural broadband deployment). It also ensures that local communities can partner with the private sector in carrying out broadband projects and gives communities more flexibility in complying with their funding match requirements.
“Most Americans are currently under stay-at-home restrictions due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, making it clearer than ever how vital – but limited – access to broadband service is in many of our communities. Completing the ‘last mile,’ in particular, is critical to ensuring that rural Americans are able to access high-speed internet,” said Graves.
The bill will help spur projects under EDA programs to give rural and poor communities more online access to medical care, schools, the workplace, food, and other essential services. “Looking beyond the nation’s current health emergency and towards our economic recovery, providing more avenues to develop broadband will also help these communities attract more jobs and business,” Graves added.
Communities that are economically distressed, possibly due in part to the lack of broadband, can be impacted even worse than most communities during disasters and other crises, according to the lawmakers. By helping to increase the reach of broadband to these communities, this legislation will help:
- Attract new businesses and support current businesses in distressed regions of the country
- Provide critical infrastructure for more effective emergency preparedness and response
- Strengthen healthcare systems and delivery of medical care to vulnerable populations
- Lay the groundwork for economic recovery in these areas
- Better prepare these communities for future disasters or epidemics